Category Archives: Harry Kelsey

The Florida Inland Navigation District, local sponsor of the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway

In 1927, Congress authorized the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to take possession of the Florida East Coast Canal on the condition that the State of Florida provide a “local sponsor” to acquire and turn over to the federal government at the State’s sole expense the the entire private canal owned by Harry Kelsey, then a Palm Beach County land developer, as well as any right-of-way needed to enlarge the waterway.

The local sponsor was also to acquire and maintain spoil areas where the Army Corps could deposit spoil from future dredging. The 1927 Act required the federal government to enlarge the waterway and maintain the depths and widths of the waterway.

By 1929,
the State Legislature had created the Florida Inland Navigation District (FIND) to act as local sponsor. In turn, FIND issued over a million dollars worth of bonds to buy the waterway from Kelsey for $725,000. In 1929, FIND turned over the Canal to the federal government, the toll chains were dropped, and the Canal became a public, federally controlled waterway called the Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway, free of the burden of tolls.

This special taxing district is now made up of the twelve east coast counties. These counties provide a small portion of total real property taxes to fund the District. Unfortunately, the federal government has failed to live up to its end of the bargain, providing on average 20% of the cost of maintenance. FIND picks up the balance. Other states like South Carolina have no similar taxing district to pick up the shortage of federal funds for that state’s portion of the ICW. Accordingly, shoaling is prevalent in these states where vessels often run aground as a result of poor maintenance.

The spokesman in this video is Mark Crosley, Executive Director of FIND. While the focus is on Palm Beach County, most of the tape is equally applicable to the entire State of Florida. The material in this presentation is based in large part on my research and my book, “Florida’s Big Dig,” the story of the Intracoastal Waterway.